Yemeni government worries over cancellation of Houthi classification as terror group

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Last week, US administration announced that it would be lifting terrorist designation of Al-Houthis, the Iran-backed extremist outfit. The rebel Yemeni organisation was earlier added to the list of foreign terrorist organisations by former US president Donald Trump. Joe Biden, the newly appointed US president has decided to reverse to move of his predecessor, which would be brought to effect on Tuesday, 16 February.

The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken in his statement, released on Friday, justified Biden administration’s move as an attempt to bring peace in the war-torn nation. Blinken said, “We have listened to warnings from the United Nations, humanitarian groups, and bipartisan members of Congress, among others, that the designations could have a devastating impact on Yemenis’ access to basic commodities like food and fuel.”

But the only thing which 46th US president overlooked was to maintain a checks-and-balances strategy against the militant group, which has a history of committing various war crimes and human rights abuses against Yemeni men, women and children.

“Removing the designation of terrorist group without asking the Houthis for a return to democratic practices and a change in their terror policies against the Yemeni population is a mistake,” Bushra Nasr, a Yemeni economic development expert and human rights activist, told reporters in Geneva.

On Friday, European rights groups raised serious concerns over the extremist group’s recruitment of children as soldiers. The report published by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the SAM for Rights and Liberties exposed how the rebel group has been forcibly recruiting over 10,000 children to expand its troop strength to win major tracts of land in the country, since 2018. Houthi rebels have been fighting since 2014 to bring down the internationally recognised government and its allies in the pursuit of taking full control of the country. Yemen civil war hit its highest point on 26 March 2015, when the country’s president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, fled to Riyadh and urged the Arab nations for help.

The Geneva-based rights groups reported that hundreds of the children have already been killed or injured while fighting for the Houthis, adding that 111 who were killed during July and August 2020 alone. In its report, which was released on Friday to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, the group said that the rebel group has been using aggression and financial baits to pull children, as young as 10 years old, for the past three years.

The report added that the Houthi group has been running about 52 military training camps across Yemen to mould and brainwash thousands of adolescents and children, including in Saada, Sanaa, Al Mahwit, Hodeidah, Tihama, Hajjah and Dhamar.

One of the child soldiers, who spoke to the investigators said,“I was assigned with loading the guns and transporting them with foodstuffs to high, rugged areas. It was hard and exhausting. I used to get beaten and reprimanded when I arrived late. I cried a lot during those nights, fearing for my life and for missing my mother, father and brothers.”

The United Nations has been raising alarms about the worsening plight of Yemeni people, about 80% of whom have been living in abject poverty. UN has urged the warring factions to end the conflict as the country’s population was in dire need of relief supplies. which if nor delivered would bring millions on the verge of a large-scale famine. Yemeni rebel group has been using civilians as a bait and blocking their supplies in order to pressurise US to de-list it. The UN has been referred to the ongoing conflict as the worst humanitarian crisis in the region in decades.

Many Yemeni activities and human rights propagators have launched a hashtag campaign – #StopHouthiTerrorismInYemen, to urge US administration to review its plan as it could complicate peace efforts in the country. Many political analysts believed that before advancing towards the de-listing step, US should acknowledge the fact that the militia organisation has so far not implemented any significant move towards peace. Besides, the Biden administration has not even used the opportunity to strike a bargain deal with the group to keep it from its terror activities in the county. The dearth of required checks over the rebel fighters, observers argued, would worsen Yemen crisis. Houthis should be pushed to exhibit real intent in terms of actions with regard to the peace process

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